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NASA’s Dawn Spirals Down to Lowest Orbit

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.

“Dawn has performed some complicated and beautiful choreography in order to reach this lowest orbit,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission manager based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We are in an excellent position to learn much more about the secrets of Vesta’s surface and interior.”

Launched in 2007, Dawn has been in orbit around Vesta, the second most massive object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, since July 15. The team plans to acquire data in the low orbit for at least 10 weeks.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-384

Early Black Holes Grew Big By Eating Cold, Fast Food

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Bruce and Astrid McWilliams Center for Cosmology have discovered what caused the rapid growth of early supermassive black holes – a steady diet of cold, fast food.

Computer simulations, completed using supercomputers at the National Institute for Computational Sciences and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and viewed using GigaPan Time Machine technology, show that thin streams of cold gas flow uncontrolled into the center of the first black holes, causing them to grow faster than anything else in the universe.  The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

In the early days of the universe, a mere 700 to 800 million years after the Big Bang, most things were small. The first stars and galaxies were just beginning to form and grow in isolated parts of the universe.  According to astrophysical theory, black holes found during this era also should be small in proportion with the galaxies in which they reside. Recent observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have shown that this isn’t the case — enormous supermassive black holes existed as early as 700 million years after the Big Bang.

Full Story: http://www.cmu.edu/mcs/news/pressreleases/2011/12_7_MassiveBlack.html

NASA Engages Public With New Custom Internet Radio Station

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s mission of discovery and exploration will be showcased in a custom-produced Internet music radio station that is crafted specifically to speak the language of tech-savvy young adults.

Third Rock – America’s Space Station is set to launch with a New Rock/Indie/Alternative format on Monday, Dec. 12. The station is being developed and operated at no cost to the government through a Space Act Agreement. Third Rock can be reached from NASA’s home page, http://www.nasa.gov, and will soon be available through NASA iPhone and Droid mobile applications.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-409_Third_Rock.html